Orthodox Union Applauds Sweeping Changes within NYC Dept. of Education for Families with Children with Special Needs


Advocacy Effort Leads to Relief of Burden on New York City Families

For Immediate Release                                                           Contact:

June 24, 2014                                                                         Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227

OU Advocacy’s work with New York state legislators promoting Special Ed legislation culminated with today’s announcement by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of sweeping changes within the New York City Department of Education (DOE) for families with children with special needs.

The agreement between Speaker Silver and Mayor de Blasio ends the DOE’s practice of automatically challenging private school placements for children with special needs.

OU Advocacy partnered with Agudath Israel and the New York Catholic Conference to support the Special Ed bills before the New York State legislature. Last week, OU Advocacy and Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), brought a delegation of students with special needs and parents to Albany to advocate for the bills.

Key modifications to be implemented by the DOE in time for the upcoming school year include: expediting decisions about settling cases within 15 days; making tuition payments to parents on a monthly basis; providing a payment schedule to parents; reducing paperwork by only requiring parents to submit full documentation every three years; and refraining from re-litigating settled or decided cases, unless there is a change in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

“This agreement provides much-needed financial and emotional relief to parents who have, in the past, had to resort to costly, time-consuming and emotionally-draining litigation as their only option to secure funding for their children’s education,” said Jeff Leb, New York State Director of OU Advocacy.

“For too long, New York City parents of children with special needs—whose IEPs have approved placement in non-public schools—have suffered needlessly through endless litigation, financial uncertainty and educational instability,” said Dr. Jeff Lichtman, International Director of Yachad. “We are hopeful that today’s deal will help thousands of New York City’s families.”

The Silver-de Blasio deal was preceded by Special Ed bill S.7691 passing in the New York State Senate. Sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder, that bill included much of the same details included in the Silver-de Blasio deal. A sister bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.

“We are extremely grateful to Speaker Silver and Mayor de Blasio for reaching this deal, to Senator Simcha Felder for sponsoring the Special Ed bill in the State Senate and ensuring its passing, as well as to Assembly Members Phil Goldfeder and Helene Weinstein for their unwavering support of the Special Ed bill in the Assembly,” Leb added. “We also want to thank Agudath Israel and the New York Catholic Conference for working with us to keep the concerns of families with children with special needs top of mind for our legislators.”

Noting that New York City had an opportunity to do “something foundational and right some wrongs,” Mayor de Blasio called the deal a “streamlined, parent-friendly, family-friendly, respectful approach.”

“Every child in this city deserves a quality education. But for years, parents of children with special needs have had to wait for the City to settle legitimate claims for tuition reimbursement. Today, we are turning the page, making changes that will ease the burden on these parents. We are cutting red tape, speeding up the process, and reaching outcomes that do right by families,” said Mayor de Blasio at today’s press conference.

“This is a great victory for our special needs children and their hardworking families,” said Speaker Silver. “For too long, parents of special needs children had to engage in a lengthy fight to get their children placed in a private school,” Silver said, adding that the deal “gives children with special needs the education they need and gives parents the emotional and financial relief they deserve.”

“We look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio’s team, particularly New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña” said Leb.

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Assembly Members Helene Weinstein and Phil Goldfeder (front, center) meet with a delegation of students with special needs and parents in the New York Capitol building during the OU Advocacy-Yachad mission to Albany to advocate for the Special Ed bills before the New York state legislature.

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Senator Simcha Felder (center) meets with a delegation of students with special needs and parents during the OU Advocacy-Yachad mission to Albany to advocate for the Special Ed bills before the New York state legislature.

 

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The Orthodox Union is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization; the OU Advocacy Center, formerly the Institute for Public Affairs, is the non-partisan public policy arm of the OU and leads its advocacy efforts in Washington, DC and state capitals.